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Kentucky Fried…No Chicken?

Published on March 23, 2018, at 12:29 a.m.
by Cara Bolt.

Can Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) actually run out of chicken? It sounds like a set up to a bad joke, but the punchline happened in the United Kingdom.

On Valentine’s Day, KFC switched distributors to DCH, a food delivery service. The new partnership went rancid within two days when managers complained of late deliveries. Britons were running around like chickens with their heads cut off when KFC had to close 700 of the 900 locations due to a chicken shortage.

The crisis grew on Twitter when Britons shared their understandable displeasure with #KFCCrisis. It got so bad for the Britons that police departments had to issue warnings on Twitter for people contacting them about the crisis. Here’s one from the Tower Hamlets MPS:

Photo via Twitter

KFC responded with an ad that jumbled up the initials. In addition to the ad, KFC issued an apology, which can be read below.

“It’s been a hell of a week, but we’re making progress, and every day
more and more fresh chicken is being delivered to our
restaurants. Thank you for bearing with us.”

There are several lessons for public relations practitioners to learn here.

One of the many quotes attributed to Ben Franklin is “Honesty is the best policy.” This can be applied to PR, especially in a crisis situation.

Photo via BBC

Honesty can build credibility and trust with consumers. A blog post by Bettison, a crisis communication firm based out of Minnesota, noted, “Honest, genuine and authentic communications are always the best policy, and they will pay big dividends from the trust-based relationships you develop and maintain by adhering to this policy.”

KFC earned a lot of respect for how it handled the crisis with honesty. The company didn’t run away from the problem but owned up to the mistake.

There are some caveats to engaging in honest communications. Be mindful when it comes to employee privacy and sharing too much information, which can harm the company’s credibility. Always be strategic in communications.

People appreciate sincerity. In a PRWeek article, Jon Harris, chief communications officer of ConAgra Foods, urged corporate executives to apologize with sincerity. A canned apology instantly loses a consumer’s respect. Hitting a genuine tone is the best way to phrase an apology. KFC did exactly that, and adding a splash of humor doesn’t hurt either. Humor can be a double-edged sword, but KFC’s self-deprecating joke didn’t cross the line.

It’s inevitable that a crisis is going to happen, but being honest, sincere and humorous can earn a company a lot of respect. Consumers value genuine apologies and responses.

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